The State of Search: Passage-Based Ranking

During the month of February, our tools reported significant volatility in the search results around February 10th and February 17th followed by additional waves around February 23rd and February 27th as displayed in the graph, below: 

February 2021 Search Volatility

The changes experienced around February 10th were a direct result of Google launching passage-based ranking in the United States as confirmed by the search engine on Twitter that day. Passage-based ranking is Google's ability to algorithmically identify a passage or multiple passages that may answer one query while understanding that another passage or passages from the same page may answer a different query. With passage-based ranking, Google is able to rank different passages from the same piece of content separately, for different searches. 

Google Passage-based Ranking

The fluctuations experienced in the SERPs later in the month coincide with those generally experienced during an algorithm update but nothing has been confirmed by Google at this time.

Google News & Tips

  • Google Analytics Update - GA has replaced bounce rate with a new metric called “Engagement Rate” which tracks multi-page visits, visits with goals, and any visit over 10 seconds. Site owners should want this new metric to be high. 
  • Featured Snippets - Google has removed featured snippets for many queries. SEOs have reported a 40% drop in featured snippets since February 19th.
  • Title Tags - Longer title tags that are compelling can be beneficial. However, Google recommends focusing on the purpose of the title tag rather than the length.
  • Internal Links - Leverage internal links throughout your site to tell Google which pages are most important (Note- the more internal links to a page, the more important and likely to rank higher that page is according to Google).

What this means for you

While the February 10th update initially appeared to be significant, chatter across the SEO community did not indicate a major impact following this update. No changes are needed from site owners at this time in relation to the passage-ranking update. We are in the process of analyzing the possible Google algorithm update that took place later in the month and will report on significant findings as we review changes experienced by your site and competitor sites.

Let’s talk.